Kennedy Space Center making preparations for Hurricane Dorian

As Hurricane Dorian approaches, preparations are underway at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Kennedy Space Center for the imminent storm. 

The National Hurricane Center said Dorian could strike the Florida Peninsula as a Category 4 Hurricane for a Sunday night landfall. 

In the meantime, the space center is preparing to close Monday, with a team of 100 to 120 people staying behind to monitor the storm’s effects and conduct a safety inspection once it passes.

Those staying at KSC will stay at the Launch Control Center, which is certified to handle a Category 5 hurricane.

On Wednesday, KSC had its Crawler Transporter 2 vehicle to Launch Pad 39B where it began transporting the Mobile Launcher there early Friday morning back to the Vehicle Assembly Building. 

“The Mobile Launcher and Crawler Transporter 2 that will be used for the Artemis program are buttoned up inside the Vehicle Assembly Building,” according to KSC’s press release.

It had been at the pad undergoing hardware testing and checks for NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to return American astronauts to the moon by 2024.  

Moving at about one mile per hour, it takes about eight hours for the crawler to get to the pad from the VAB. 

NASA teams, using the historic crawler-transporter, slowly move the mobile launcher from Kennedy Space Center's Vehicle Assembly Building to pad 39B on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018. The mobile launcher will eventually host the agency's Space Launch System rocket.

Buy PhotoNASA teams, using the historic crawler-transporter, slowly move the mobile launcher from Kennedy Space Center’s Vehicle Assembly Building to pad 39B on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018. The mobile launcher will eventually host the agency’s Space Launch System rocket. Emre Kelly / FLORIDA TODAYBuy PhotoFullscreen6 PhotosPhotos: NASA’s crawler-transporter on the move at Kennedy Space Center

“This was done for shuttle numerous times so this is nothing new,” Crawler Project Manager John Giles told FLORIDA TODAY. 

This is the first time the crawler transports a vehicle in preparation of a hurricane since the shuttle days, Giles said. 

If Dorian does hit the Space Coast, “(the crawler) will stay in the VAB underneath the Mobile Launcher and as soon as it’s safe, we’ll bring it back out to the pad,” he said.

According to KSC, the VAB is built to withstand winds around 125 mph. 

Kennedy Space Center's Crawler Transporter 2 vehicle heads to pad 39B in preparation for Tropical Storm Dorian.

Kennedy Space Center’s Crawler Transporter 2 vehicle heads to pad 39B in preparation for Tropical Storm Dorian. (Photo: ANTONIA JARAMILLO / FLORIDA TODAY)

The visitor complex, meanwhile, anticipates to close Sunday and stay that way for the duration of the storm, visitor complex spokeswoman Rebecca Shireman said. 

“On Saturday, August 31, Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will be open during regular hours of 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.” according to the visitor complex’s press release. “Kennedy Space Center Bus Tours to the Apollo/Saturn V Center will be available until 2:30 p.m. Special interest tours will not be available.” 

As of now, Shireman said the visitor complex is preparing for the storm by storing away loose items such as umbrellas, banners and so forth. The rockets displayed at the rocket garden do not need extra safekeeping since they are made to withstand high winds.

Although the storm’s path remains uncertain, people in Puerto Rico and Florida are already prepping for Dorian. USA TODAY

Both the space center and the 45th Space Wing, which commands Patrick Air Force Base and the Air Force Station, entered a Hurricane Condition IV (HURCON IV) Thursday morning in preparation for Dorian.

“HURCON IV indicates surface winds in excess of 50 knots (58 mph) could arrive in the area of Patrick Air Force Base and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station within 48 hours,” according to the wing’s press release. 

The wing leadership has initiated a “recall” notification of all base personnel, which entails contacting everyone at the station and on base to get the status of where they are and teams will begin disconnecting electrical power to non-essential facilities. The wing also encourages all personnel and residents to take action for the possible arrival of Dorian. 

“These actions include the potential for evacuation of the base and all barrier islands,” according to the release. “Wing leadership is coordinating preparation and response operations with Brevard County and NASA emergency management operations centers.” 

The 45th Medical Group is curtailing services in preparation for the storm and all appointments will be deferred until normal operations resume. 

“Other facilities on base, such as the commissary, Base Exchange, Child Development Center, Youth Center and Riverside Dining Facility are open,” according to the release.

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